The following text is an excerpt from a message delivered by Erlo Stegen during a double-engagement service at the KSB Familienfreizeit at Melchtal, Switzerland on Sunday, August 10th, 1997. The topics of his message included unity and oneness as well as a discussion on a demonstration in Durban, purity, Aids, abortion and immorality. A portion of the service was devoted to the actual subject of marriage and engagement.
As this message was translated simultaneously into French by Ferny Jaegler, and has been transcribed directly with little alteration to the German text, the reader must be aware that the “choppiness” of phrasing is a result of the raw transcription (which has been translated into English here).
Segment of Sermon of Erlo Stegen
“Who has seen birds flying in formation, in a “V” formation? Why do they fly like that? Though these are just dumb birds, it is surprising that they fly in such an exact formation. The birds fly in a V formation because it gives them forty percent greater range. Each bird helps the one behind by its slipstream- through its wing-beat. As a result each bird saves fifty percent of its energy.
Only the front bird doesn’t benefit. That is why they rotate. They constantly rotate with one another. The front one goes to the back and another goes to the front because the front one suffers most from fatigue. As Christians we can learn from the birds, therefore, we read in Acts that the Christians were of one heart and one soul. What is it like when we are of one heart and one soul; going forward together in the Lord?
That is why it is madness when suddenly somebody departs. For a person to leave revived Christians is senseless. If he says that God leads him out, the devil is his god. Christians who are of one heart and one soul and then one does not work together- don’t have anything to do with such a person; until he acknowledges his senseless deed and repents.”
One doesn’t even have to pray about this to ask the Lord to show you whether the man is right or not. We should be of one heart and one soul. And how much energy don’t we save through this- we can fly much further, the work can expand.
Original German version
“Wer hat schon Voegel gesehen, die in einem Formationsflug fliegen? Die fliegen in einem V, so… und… Warum fliegen die so? Oft sind die Distanzen ganz genau, das sind doch dumme Voegel, die nur piepen. Die Voegel fliegen in Formation, weil sie dadurch 40% groessere Reichweiten erlangen. Jeder Vogel hilft dem Nachfolgenden durch den Aufwind, den er mit seinem Fluegelschlag produziert. Dadurch spart jeder Vogel 50% seiner Energie. Nur der Vorderste profitiert nicht davon, deshalb wechseln sich die Voegel ab. Immer wieder wechseln sie sich gegenseitig ab. Dann geht der Vorderste nach hinten und ein Anderer geht nach vorn, weil vorn die Ermuedungserscheinungen am staerksten sind. Das koennen wir Christen von den Voegeln lernen.
Darum heisst es, dass die erweckten Christen in der Apostelgeschichte ein Herz und eine Seele waren. Wie schön ist es, wenn wir ein Herz und eine Seele sind, zusammen im Herrn vorangehen. Darum ist es Verücktheit, wenn plötzlich Einer darausläuft, ein Mensch die erweckten Christen verlässt, das ist Unsinn.
Wenn er sagt Gott führt ihn raus, der Teufel ist sein Gott. Christen, die ein Herz und eine Seele sind, und dann macht Einer nicht mit, mit dem sollen wir nichts zu tun haben, das er bald seinen Unsinn erkennt und sich bekehrt.
Da braucht man nicht mal drüber zu beten, den Herrn zu fragen, dass er einem zeigt, ob der Mann recht ist oder nicht. Wir sollen ein Herz und eine Seele sein. Und wieviel Energie sparen wir nicht dadurch. Wir können viel weiter fliegen. Das Werk breitet sich viel weiter aus.”
The following is a series of questions and comments on the above portion of Erlo Stegen’s sermon. The intent of this approach is to encourage the reader to work through his key statements and their implications to reveal a tendency toward exclusion in Stegen’s ideas of what it means to be a revived Christian.
This segment is not a fragment of a greater logically ordered discussion in the sermon. The isolation of this segment from the rest of the sermon is thus not a misrepresentation or distortion of the context and expression of Stegen’s claims and position here. An expanded transcription of this section of the sermon is available for those who desire verification on this point.
It is hoped that the reader will see the following, not as an attempt to cariacturise Erlo Stegen’s position, but as further evidence of perspectives which have been pointed out in other recent documents and testimonies regarding controversial elements in the K.S.B. Leadership ideology.
I. Erlo’s Conclusion: Leaving Revived Christians = Serving Satan
Erlo Stegen states emphatically in his message:
“For a person to leave revived Christians is senseless. If he says that God leads him out, the devil is his god.”
Let us analyse some of the implications of this statement.
1) How are revived Christians different from other Christians (according to Scripture)? Rev. 3: 1 differentiates spiritual life and death “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” How do this and other scripture harmonise with what Stegen is saying.
2) Is Erlo saying that it is senseless to leave Christians who are truly alive?
3) What does it mean to leave revived Christians (according to Scripture). Does this statement have any firm relationship to Scripture? Erlo doesn’t say, “he who leaves those who are believers in Christ,” he says “revived Christians.” Does Scripture differentiate believers from revived Christians?
4) What does Erlo mean by the statement- “If he says that God leads him out…”? Erlo doesn’t clarify “out of where” a person claims God to be leading. Is Erlo referring to a person who leaves, and believes to be led out, by God, from true Christianity? Or is he referring to someone who leaves a particular, specific group of revived Christians? Erlo probably wasn’t implying out of Christianity- for it would be bizarre for someone to claim God was leading them out of Christianity in this context. He must mean for someone to leave is to depart from the fellowship/ assembly of revived Christians.
5) Is Erlo referring to a specific assembly of revived Christians?
6) KSB claims that it is a place of revival, and that its members are participating in a continuous and growing revival which has lasted for over thirty years.
7) KSB publicly distinguishes itself from other churches and organisations as it sees itself as having the peculiar blessing of revival. Though it acknowledges past revivals elsewhere, it promotes its own perceived experience of revival as involving special local and global purpose and revelation… especially with regards to marriage customs and dress codes, among other things.
8) In the minds of Stegen’s audience in Switzerland, is it not valid to say that Erlo was implying that to leave KSB is to leave revival…and the assembly of revived Christians?
9) Is there any legitimate, scriptural grounds upon which Erlo could justify his implied statement that it is senseless to leave KSB- revived Christians?
10) As his statement stands, Erlo implies that if a man expresses that God has called him to leave KSB- an assembly of revived Christians, such a man’s god is the devil.
11) Can Erlo legitimately refer to an individual’s decision to follow what he feels is the Lord’s leading in leaving KSB or any other assembly of revived Christians as automatically being equivalent to serving the devil?
12) Is Stegen not declaring here that he cannot accept , bless, or support anyone who believes they leave KSB in favour with God and out of right obedience to God’s desire? Erlo suggests that there no legitimate freedom to leave KSB(the assembly of revived Christians) and to still be considered a revived Christian? Is Erlo not announcing the fact that he believes it is impossible for an individual to follow a calling of God out of KSB and still be accepted by KSB as being a true believer, equally revived as KSB claims to be? Erlo implies a belief that by default, to leave the KSB assembly, cannot be motivated from godly conviction. In his view, leaving KSB is equivalent to adopting the devil as one’s god.
13) Could Erlo have been specifically referring to anyone having felt a call of the Lord to leave KSB when he delivered this sermon? A prominent co-worker had left KSB approximately nine months before Erlo made this statement, and many people were still wondering why this leader had left, because this man had been known and loved as a man of integrity. A number of people who heard this statement concluded that Erlo was insinuating that this former leader was a servant of the devil because he left the assembly of revived Christians at KSB.
Erlo follows the above controversial statement with an even more problematic one:
II. There is No Need to Pray, Examine, or Discern Whether or Not a Person Who Leaves Revived Christians is Doing God’s Will Because by Leaving He is Automatically Serving Satan.
“One doesn’t even have to pray about this, to ask the Lord to show you whether the man is right or not. We should be of one heart and one soul.”
1) Erlo makes this statement in reference to one who does not work together with those who are of one heart, “working together” implying working together in fellowship and association with revived Christians.
2) Why did Erlo say “One doesn’t even have to pray about this”?
3) Isn’t prayer in this context referring to a prayer of request for discernment?
4) Why did Erlo emphasize that it was unnecessary to pray to ask God for discernment regarding whether or not a person leaving the revived assembly was acting under the guidance of God? Is he implying that conformation to the “oneness” of the assembly of revived Christians supersedes an individual’s responsibility to refer to the Spirit’s judgements on all matters? Can Erlo’s statement be reconciled with the 1 Thes. 5:21 instruction to “test everything?”
5) Erlo implies that the act of leaving the assembly is enough proof for the devilishness of the one leaving… that such an act is ample proof that a Christian need not go to God to test, examine, and seek discernment regarding the legitimacy of another person’s decision to leave the assembly of revived Christians. In Erlo’s implied opinion, if a person leaves KSB, it is sufficient grounds for the assembly to shun- (have nothing to do with) the one who has departed from the Mission.
6) Erlo’s statement implies that it is a sin to leave the assembly of revived Christians at Kwa Sizabantu.
7) Simply leaving the group, according to Stegen, makes someone a servant of Satan. 1 John 4:2-3 reveals that acknowledgement of Jesus as having come in the flesh is our gauge for discerning the spirit of the prophet “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God; Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.” Yet Erlo’s statement offers an alternative ground for rejecting someone apart from what is mentioned in this scripture. What are the implications of this? What if someone follows a call by God to leave the Mission and they do so in full acknowledgement of Jesus as their Lord, in unbroken relationship with Christ? Can Erlo justly condemn such a person?
9) Consider the following scriptures: 1 John 2: 18-19
“This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they didn’t really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. ”
1 John 4:6 “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”
Both of these scriptures appeal to involvement in and adherence to the teaching of “a group” as grounds for discerning a person’s belonging to the Body of Christ and having the Spirit of “truth vs. the spirit of falsehood.” Could we rightfully insert “This is how we know it is the last hour/ They went out from KSB, but they didn’t really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained at KSB…” or could we say “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us, the Leadership of KSB; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us – the revived Christians of KSB?”
The answer is simple, we could never assign KSB, one of many groups, such a place of prominence. This would be idolatry- replacing Jesus Christ with something else. As Christians, our ultimate participation in “the group” is in the Body of Christ, not KSB or any other organization. Neither we ourselves, nor any other denomination or group can say people are rejecting God if they do not listen to us- to merely ourselves. This is because we are only channels of and not the source of truth. Beware of allowing this distinction to become blurry.
10) We cannot insert and must not project ourselves or our particular group identities into the Scriptures. Therefore, our participation with the Body of Christ is not limited to our loyalty and involvement with KSB. We don’t have to be at KSB to be revived Christians. Likewise, our listening to KSB is not our final gauge as to whether or not we are listening to God. We can be apart from KSB and disagree with the leadership, and still walk in truth and still be Christians with true spiritual life. Therefore, no one can be accused of rejecting God through a choice not to follow the KSB leadership, or leave that assembly which proclaims itself revived Christians. Rejection of God is only through sin. It is no sin to depart from and disagree with the Mission. It is only a sin to depart from and disagree with God. KSB is not God but subordinated to Him.
11) If this is true, KSB cannot justly shun those who leave it merely on the basis that leaving KSB is wrong. Such a belief is a fallacy. In fact, it implies deviation from Scripture…. and… could very well be a symptom of heresy.
In the above sermon portions we’ve outlined how Erlo Stegen conveys his perspective of what it means to be a part of the group of revived Christians and how, in his opinion, no one can leave such a group legitimately. We see that Stegen, through what he implies and suggests, exposes his belief that KSB is a group of revived Christians regarding which he cannot allow or bless anyone’s departure from it as being “right.” Because, by default, in his view, he who leaves KSB claiming God’s leading, is deceived and serves the devil. Yet, we have demonstrated that this claim is less than satisfactorily in coherence with truth and Scripture. And thus, Stegen’s claims are evidence for a faulty doctrine of exclusion at Kwa Sizabantu Mission.
Heresy and error are sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant. It behoves us as Christians to test and examine all things. You are invited to test this analysis. You are also encouraged to watch and pray and be aware of the quality of the expression of truth in all aspects of Christian traditions, doctrines, and practices with which you come into contact, whether in a portion of a sermon, or a guiding ideology in an organization. What are your conclusions?